We bolster the global economy

Area businesses have reason to celebrate successes

award-winning businesses a key component of region's high quality of life

ssloan@herald-leader.comSeptember 22, 2012 

Lexington's Big Ass Fans has racked up a slew of business-related awards, including one for not laying off people during the recession.

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Basketball, bourbon and horses may be the icons, but Central Kentucky has proven time and time again its acclaim knows no bounds.

And much of that comes because of the area's businesses, which range from top hospitals and automakers to printer manufacturers and Italian restaurants.

Together, they've created an economy that has won Central Kentucky plenty of honors. In 2011, Forbes named Lexington the fourth-best city in the nation for business and careers. A year earlier, Lexington was named the third-best city to retire in by CNNMoney.

So what are the businesses and hospitals driving the success here?

Toyota: Georgetown is home to the Japanese automaker's largest North American plant, both in size and capacity.

It was Toyota's first wholly owned manufacturing facility in North America when it opened in the 1980s and employs about 6,700 full-time workers. The plant produces the Camry, which is perennially the top-selling car in America, and the Avalon and Venza.

University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital: The rapidly expanding hospital was ranked tops in the state this year by U.S. News & World Report. It also was nationally ranked in orthopedics and listed as "High Performing" in 10 specialty areas.

Fazoli's: The Italian restaurant chain's revamped menu has received acclaim, but so, too, has its headquarters operations here. The company was honored as having the best human resources department during the recent 10th annual American Business Awards.

Central Baptist Hospital: In 2011, the health care accreditation group The Joint Commission named the hospital one of the nation's top performers in care for heart attacks, heart failure, pneumonia and surgery. Central Baptist was the only hospital in Kentucky recognized in all four categories and was one of 405 nationally to earn the distinction.

Alltech: From its roots in animal nutrition to its family of beers, the Nicholasville company has won plenty of national awards, but it's perhaps most proud of its support of the arts, such as the annual Alltech-UK Vocal Scholarship Competition. Alltech was recently named one of the top 10 U.S. companies supporting the arts by Americans for the Arts.

Big Ass Fans: The name of this high-volume, low-speed fan manufacturer no doubt elicits a few chuckles when it's honored, and the owner is certainly familiar with awards. For reasons including his decision not to lay off employees during the Great Recession, Carey Smith was recognized by business magazine Inc. as its Economy Hero in 2011.

Lexmark International: The Lexington-based printer maker has been recognized globally for its sustainability efforts, which include everything from energy efficiency at its locations to recycling ink cartridges into pens.

The company ranked 15th overall in the United States in the most recent Maplecroft Climate Innovation Index that examines how businesses are responding to climate change. In 2010, it ranked seventh.

Saint Joseph Hospital: In 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded the hospital a Silver Medal of Honor for increasing the number of organs available for transplanting. The hospital was one of 307 in the nation to receive the award.

Link-Belt: The Lexington-based construction equipment company known for its cranes was honored this year by the Specialized Carriers and Rigging Association, a trade group representing 1,300 member companies. The company received the group's environmental award for its efforts, which include producing mulch from recycled wood waste.

Scott Sloan: (859) 231-1447. Twitter: @HeraldLeaderBiz

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